Observations about cellular carriers in the US, broken down by performance based on location, and reported by state. This information is gathered either from personal experience or from reports by contributors in the field.
Our reports show AT&T and Verizon Wireless are tied for the best cell phone coverage in Alabama. T-Mobile with their new 4G LTE "Extended" coverage, now offers excellent service across much of the state with the exception of a few remote rural areas. Sprint is a reasonable fourth choice with a notable number of dead spots in rural areas away from major highways. We also like the availability of service in much of the state from Straight Talk and TracFone. Tampnet provides cellular service in the Gulf of Mexico, however, AT&T and T-Mobile customers can roam on the Tampnet network.
What information we have is more from visitors than locals. GCI Wireless provides coverage in the largest number of Alaska communities and with a recent expansion provides the greatest amount of the best cell phone coverage in Alaska, including data. AT&T serves many areas of the state with their own network, offering good broadband service as well as a large phone selection. Arctic Slope Telephone Wireless has some of the most loyal customers in the state as they serve the northern tip of the state and act more like family than company. Verizon Wireless has entered the state with a new 4G LTE network that depends on some roaming partners for greater coverage around the state, however, non-4G phones cannot access the Verizon network, so mainland visitors may end up roaming on a different network. Bristol Bay Cellular may be your only choice in the upper Aleutian Islands. Sprint and T-Mobile have no networks of their own in Alaska. TracFone and Straight Talk are also good choices in most areas of the state. Some towns have only one wireless carrier, many where wireless is the only phone service available.
Verizon Wireless dominates most of the state with the exception of the Native American areas. Sprint gets second place in the state with good urban coverage and some rural roaming possibilities. AT&T has improved greatly in the metro Phoenix area, but suffers from coverage limitations in rural parts of the state with the exception of tribal lands. TracFone and Straight Talk are available in most areas of the state. T-Mobile has very good urban coverage but has somewhat of a roaming disadvantage as GSM coverage is not as extensive in the state. The Native American territories are a special case and, while Cellular One has the most widespread general coverage, Choice Wireless provides a greater amount of high speed broadband coverage.
Verizon Wireless and AT&T have very good networks in the state but this is also where US Cellular shines as having the best cell phone coverage in most rural areas of Arkansas. T-Mobile, with their new 4G LTE "Extended" coverage, offers very good service in most urban and rural areas of Arkansas. Sprint serves urban areas and the interstates, but not much else. TracFone and StraightTalk work very well in the the entire state.
It's too large and varied a state to declare a top cellular carrier but there are some indicators of what to expect. We believe T-Mobile has one of the best networks in the state, and with their new 4G LTE "Extended" coverage, now offers excellent service in rural parts of the state as well. Verizon Wireless has maintained good coverage that rises above the others when traveling outside of urban areas. Sprint invested heavily to become the leader in coastal California and comes close to that goal. AT&T has been slow but more recently aggressive in adding coverage and features. Consider US Cellular in the northwesternmost part of the state for their superior network and favorable customer service. TracFone and Straight Talk are good choices across most of the state.
Verizon Wireless dominates the state with native service in the largest number of counties. AT&T is almost as good as Verizon in urban areas and has improved rural coverage with their acquisition of the Alltel network. AT&T is weakest in the northwest quadrant of the state. For rural residents, Viaero is an excellent choice east of I-25, and Union Wireless for the northwest part of the state. Sprint gives you good coverage and features in urban areas and along most major highways, but not in rural areas. T-Mobile has very good urban coverage but has not yet added their "Extended" service in rural areas. Choice Wireless serves several rural areas and a handful of small towns in the state with good coverage and competitive plans. TracFone and Straight Talk are good choices over most of the state. Rocky Mountain National Park has some usable coverage along the main road through the park due to its high altitude. Move away from those high spots and there is no service other than near park entrances. A huge percentage of Colorado is covered by National Forest lands which generally do not permit cellular sites.
Historically, Verizon Wireless has covered the state best but the market is so competitive there isn't really a carrier with the best cell phone coverage in Connecticut. AT&T has made improvements that have fixed their capacity and coverage problems putting them in first or second place depending on location. As you move closer to populated areas, Sprint and T-Mobile are strong contenders, but they don't do as well toward the northwestern parts of the state. TracFone and Straight Talk work well in the the entire area.
There's little difference between AT&T and Verizon Wireless in the state, they both provide the best cell phone coverage in Delaware. T-Mobile with their new 4G LTE "Extended" coverage, offers excellent service across most of the region with the exception of a few remote rural areas. Sprint also does well along highways and the cities but has a few rural areas without coverage. TracFone and Straight Talk work very well in the the entire area.
With Washington DC and its suburbs mostly urban, it's hard to find a carrier that can be considered as having the best cell phone coverage in DC. AT&T and Verizon Wireless have catered to large groups of government employees and have the higher power to serve them in those thick-walled federal buildings. TracFone and StraightTalk work very well in the area.
From our reports, AT&T and Verizon Wireless each get credit as having the best cell phone coverage in Florida. T-Mobile with their new 4G LTE "Extended" coverage, now offers very good service across much of the region with the exception of the remote rural areas. Sprint is a reasonable fourth choice with a notable number of dead spots in rural areas away from major highways. Field reports note challenges along "Alligator Alley" where only the top 2 carriers provide any coverage. We also like the availability of service in Florida from Straight Talk and TracFone.
Both AT&T and Verizon Wireless serve most of Georgia well with one or the other suffering from a few dead spots in the northern parts of the state. For now, we tend to favor AT&T as the carrier having the best cell phone coverage in Georgia. T-Mobile with their new 4G LTE "Extended" coverage, offers good service across most of the state with the exception of only a few remote rural areas. Sprint also does well along highways and the cities but has large rural areas without coverage. TracFone and StraightTalk work very well in the the entire area.
GULF OF MEXICO:
Believe it or not, the Gulf of Mexico has excellent cellular service across almost 100,000 miles of water off the coast of the US. Nearly all service there is offered by Tampnet. Customers of AT&T, T-Mobile and Sprint can roam on the Tampnet network but we don't know if there are any extra fees. Users include recreational boaters, shipping lines, cruise ship travelers and petroleum workers. AT&T has a partial interest in Tampnet which may eventually result in more favorable roaming charges for AT&T customers.
Verizon Wireless has a slight edge for the best cell phone coverage on all of the Hawaiian Islands, with AT&T a close second. Another option is to deal with Mobi PCS. They were Hawaii's only locally-owned carrier, and, while they have been purchased by Verizon, Mobi PCS still conducts business as if they were independent. Sprint and T-Mobile follow behind with a number of spots tourists might go that have no service. TracFone and Straight Talk are also available in most areas.
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